Our March Comes in Like a Lion review goes into depth about this awesome anime.
Studio Shaft and director Akiyuki Shinbo have made a name for themselves by creating highly cinematic and tonally dense anime, from Monogatari to Dance in the Vampire Bund. It’s not a style that every anime fan can easily get into since it can be so overbearing. However, when their talents collide with something more grounded and tame, yet still emotionally deep, the results can be astonishing. This is the case with their latest TV series: March Comes in Like a Lion.
In the world of shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, Rei Kiriyama is one of the few people in history to become a professional player while still in middle school. This results in an enormous amount of pressure on him both from his adoptive family and from his peers. He now lives on his own as a 17-year-old high school student, desperately trying to improve his skills at the game he stakes his future on.
March Comes in Like a Lion is easily one of the most standout dramas so far this year, from its heartfelt character drama to its gripping game elements.
Despite a fairly dry subject matter, the shogi matches are surprisingly thrilling to watch. True, those not familiar with the game won’t understand what’s occurring on the board, at least until characters start explaining the game at around the halfway point.
Fortunately, the scripting and directing is so solid that you can easily tell whether a move is good or bad and how a character feels about a situation. Once the more tactical information hits, however, hints of traditional sports narrative begin to support the series even more and give more drive to the matches late in the series.
How does March Comes in Like a Lion compare to Your Lie in April?
Additionally, much like my all-time favourite anime, Your Lie in April, March weaves a fantastically emotional tale of a young prodigy trying to solidify his place in the world. What sets it apart from April, however, is its firm grasp on realism, rather than melodrama. The drama that arises from this series is dark and brooding in a way that feels natural concerning each characters’ circumstances. I could feel the lumps forming in my own throat whenever that drama came to a head, usually when Rei’s adoptive sister appears like a devilish typhoon of sinister intent.
Rei ends up in a lot of dark places mentally throughout the series, and his depression can be almost suffocating at times. But the series also counteracts this via his constant interactions with another family of three sisters. The fast-paced life of a young family home starkly contrasts Rei’s usual lonely demeanor, and the support he gets from simply being around them greatly eases the stress surrounding him.
What technical aspects make the March Comes in Like a Lion manga so great?
On the technical end, Shaft’s animation is some of the best that the studio has ever produced. The muted colour palettes convey a feeling of nostalgia blanketing the series, be it in the warm and fuzzy pastels of the family-centric scenes, or the bleak and chilling blacks, greys, and blues symbolising Rei’s depression and loss of control. These work in conjunction with some absolutely stellar directing and cinematography at a level I haven’t seen in seasonal anime since Mob Psycho 100.
Even the soundtrack adds new layers of depth and emotion to the narrative, often bringing in some kind of surprising tone to a scene that would have remained relatively flat otherwise. Its true strengths, however, rest in its ability to heighten both the dramatic and heartwarming moments to their fullest potential. Occasionally there are a couple tracks that feel a bit out of place – especially when it gets a bit jazzy – but nothing too standoffish.
March Comes in Like a Lion is an easy contender for Anime of the Season, possibly even Anime of the Year. It takes its dramatic narrative deadly seriously, but also remembers to occasionally inject levity in order to relieve both its characters and its audience. And the drama plays out so realistically that it’s hard not to tense up while watching it. Combined with the best cinematography and colour direction of the season, March easily earns a spot in my personal Top 50 anime of all time and I highly recommend checking it out.
March Comes in Like a Lion is licensed by Aniplex of America and is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
My Rating: 9/10